NOAA Proposal to Close West Side of San Juan to Kayakers

In the below information please understand that KAYAKS are included in the no-go zone!

Please make a public comment to NOAA.
NOAA states that public comments can have a major effect on the decisions made in this process. There is a limited time period of 90 Day for comment. You do not have to be a resident to make a comment. Please comment now.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) recently released a proposal on Vessel Regulation in the presence Killer Whales in the San Juan Island region. In the proposal they have set a closure zone that would prohibit most vessels (power, human power or sail) from entering the area.

Exception Vessels will include Treaty Vessels engaged in commercial fishing, research vessels, government vessels, cargo and rescue vessels and private land owners with beach property in the closure zone.

The proposed regulations would prohibit vessels from entering a no-go zone along the west side of San Juan Island. The area would extend seaward from the mean high water line to a line approximating 1⁄2 mile (800 m) offshore, from Eagle Point to Mitchell Point, and include an area totaling approximately 6.2 square miles.

Click above map for larger view.

Much of the information cited in the Proposal as scientific justification for the closure to kayaks has, in my opinion, little scientific relevance to the Southwest Orca population. Creating a closure that would not only decrease the amount of people visiting San Juan Island for the purpose of personal kayak trips but would also have a significant impact on the commercial kayak companies who have limited public use beaches for operating tours, is unjustified.

Economically speaking, many San Juan Islanders who make this our only place of residence, rely in some way on the tourist populous that visits San Juan Island. Eliminating kayaking on the west side of San Juan Island could have far reaching effects on the economy of the island.

The following information was obtained though the cited publication:

Economic Development Overview of San Juan County

R Civille, K McKenzie, I District, WA … -
Page 1. 1 Economic Development Overview of San Juan County December, 2000

*The study concluded that the County economy is driven primarily by tourism.

*In 1997, it was $19,548 and ranked thirty-fifth among
Washington’s 39 counties. The statewide average was $30,755.” The report
shows that the county has much of its employment base in the tourism-related
services and trade sectors.

Kayak Tour Companies provide a service that brings people from all over the world to kayak here. Limiting areas of access would have an impact on the number of people traveling to San Juan Island. Given the number of people that arrive here each year to go kayaking, there would be a trickledown effect in the economic loss as less people come to kayak. This would have an effect on various businesses such as: Restaurants, Hotels and B & B's, Retail Shops, and Camp Grounds. Tax revenue derived from tourist would drop and have an accumulated effect on local service where tax money is used for the County.

Kayak Tour Companies work hard to ensure all guides are trained to understand operations and guidelines while the Killer Whales are in the area. Guides double as Naturalist and pass great stewardship practices to guest on each tour. Guides provide education to guest that have travel from various locations local and non-local. As an educator their role is to pass along proper information to guest that will increase awareness for issues that face all wildlife in the San Juan's.

Many have made a proposal to have a permit system set up and have an education system set up so that guides can be certified to lead tours in Critical Habitat Areas. All of the ideas NOAA states is not cost effective and there insufficient research on the success of such programs.

To view the NOAA Proposal please follow the link below.

Take notice of the following pages"
Pg. 37679 Vessels Subject to Proposed Rule
Pg. 37680 Outline of the Proposed No-Go Zone on San Juan Islands West Side
Pg. 37683 Alternatives. Notice NOAA has take the most drastic of the alternatives.

Please understand that the Southwest Killer Whale population is listed as endangered and in part of the reason for the designation was due to the display of being culturally unique. In the concept of culture I feel it would be most appropriate to use scientific research that was done with the Southwest Killer Whale population. Most of the cited research pertaining to kayaks was done on different species in different geographical locations. Give the idea of culture I would thing that cultural tolerances would be different in different cultures, not to mention different species.

Therefore creating a closure with the current scientific evidence could be seen as negligent. The concept of the closure could be seen as an experiment in its self. But at the expense of a small community that relies heavily on tourism. Nothing but clear and concise science with definitive proof should ever be considered when dealing with the lively hoods of those affected by unfounded scientific proposed regulations.

Please make a public comment to NOAA.
NOAA states that public comments can have a major effect on the decisions made in this process. There is a limited time period of 90 Day for comment. You do not have to be a resident to make a comment. So please comment now.

Thank you for reading
Jason Gunter


Monika said…
I'll limit my comments right now to just saying that I agree with you....pretty crazy stuff!

I would also encourage people to attend the public hearings regarding these proposed regulations. There is one right here in Friday Harbor on October 5th, 2009 from 7-9 PM at The Grange Hall.

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